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Archive for December, 2014

After grilling steaks and baking potatoes last night (instead of the usual turkey and trimmings), we piled on the blankets and were happy to find warm sunshine in the morning.

Another beautiful, if not terribly warm day invited us to explore some more. I’d seen the term Rocky Point here and there but couldn’t figure out where it was, then discovered it’s the English translation of the very town we wanted to go see…Puerto Peñasco. The Organ Pipe’s visitor center had plenty of maps, tourist information, and helpful hints so we headed south once again, this time right on through the big brown fence.

As much as I’ve traveled in this country, I have not been to Europe or any other countries but Canada and a tiny bit of Mexico. Travel in Canada is not much different from travel here except for French subtitles on everything and remembering to look at the kph on the speedometer instead of mph. Travel in Mexico is immediately Someplace Else. But I shift mental gears, drag up what little Spanish I learned many years ago, figure out the road signs, and start feeling comfortable again.

The drive to Puerto Peñasco takes about an hour and the closer we get, the more obvious it is that Rocky Point is a tourist attraction for Americans. Multi-story hotels, apartments, condos, and beautiful homes, plus billboards all in English, don’t spell quaint fishing town on the Sea of Cortez. After a few wrong turns, we find the Old Port area and a place to park. The colorful shops and their equally colorful owners are little changed from Tijuana forty years ago. At first we just dodged them, then got with the program, laughed and kidded with them and made our way to a tiny restaurant with a marvelous view. 012

Carne asada tacos were tasty and the lemonade…really limeade…was scrumptious. After I’d finished the pico de gallo (chopped fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions, and probably cilantro) and drinking the limeade, I remembered the warnings against eating fresh veggies and drinking the water and wondered if Montezuma was still taking his revenge on unsuspecting tourists. I’m happy to report I survived that yummy lunch with no ill effects at all.

Tourist traps are tourist traps and they are not our favorite destination, so we slowly made our way out of town back up the highway to the visitor center for El Pinacate. The official name of this huge national wildlife refuge is much longer but I don’t have it in front of me and everyone just refers to it as Pinacate…Spanish for black beetle. There may be some beetles there but the name comes from the huge flows of black lava from some long-ago eruption. The visitor center is extremely impressive, the first in all of Central America or Mexico (is Mexico in Central America?) to be independent of the electricity grid and water. Its contents are beautifully displayed, some even in English. The most impressive part of Pinacate is the circle drive further up the road that goes to three huge craters. But the drive takes longer than we have available so we have to be satisfied with pictures.

We finish the trip, present our passports on the south side of the fence, and in a few moments we are back in Arizona. Five miles up the road we turn off for the campground and we are home.

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What a different Christmas day this is! We opened presents with our son and his family before we left Santa Maria but saved back a couple of things to open here. So our 15-year-old, $10 Walmart tree has the place of honor on the picnic table beside our trailer and our gifts are spread beneath the tree. (more…)

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Ok, here we go…pictures at last!

002Somewhere along the Puerto Blanco Road. The tall cacti are saguaros, the small green shrubs are creosote bushes, found in every desert in the US.

026  A close-up of the ribs on a relatively young saguaro. Wind blowing through those spines makes an eerie noise.

028In the middle of this organ pipe cactus are some ribs that grow in a different manner from the rest of the plant. No one knows what causes this but it is not uncommon and can occur in most any plant.

031The same organ pipe cactus seen in the previous picture. It looks larger than it is, as I was standing a little way downhill from it. It is still impressive in size.

037The woody skeletons of two dead organ pipe cacti. Saguaros also have woody skeletons and barely move even in strong winds.

035At the head of Arch Canyon is this arch and another small one above it, not visible in this small photo. Below is the wash with the broad curve where natives planted their crops and hoped for overflow from the wash, which now looks more like a road.

023

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There is no wifi in the park but my smart phone had enough signal for me to learn a bit about the one radio tower that captured our interest. For any techie readers, search for AJO-003 and learn about the Sbi net…secure borders radio network of radios, cameras, etc. When I asked later in the visitor center about what we had seen, the answers reminded me of answers received when asking retired “guvment” contractors in the DC area what they did before they retired. There is always an answer, it never says much. When I have more time, I’ll research those radios further. I did find out the flag means water…caches of jugs in the desert for whoever might need them. (more…)

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Monday found us headed back up the highway to the little town of Ajo for some minor truck repair. It wasn’t expensive but involved the brake line and one does not go exploring in the desert with brake problems. Since we were across the street from the town’s only supermarket (and hardware store in the same building), we decided to take care of the mundane necessities which still demand one’s attention.

Tuesday morning we were ready to roll. (more…)

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Mid-morning on Saturday found us heading out of town with the help of Willie Nelson and his band of gypsies. We’re on the road again, with our own gypsy, granddaughter Allison. Allie needs to get to the outskirts of Phoenix to spend the holidays with her mother and little sisters. We wanted to go to the desert again, so it made sense for us to make the trip rather than expect her parents each to make half the trip. (more…)

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